Lake Sam Rayburn Alligators

In warmer climates across the South, you can hear the chatter on the boat docks and shorelines. With alligators spreading their territory westward, everyone's wondering about the safety of our lakes. We took a deep dive to answer some commonly asked questions about alligators in Sam Rayburn Lake. 

Does Sam Rayburn Lake Have Alligators?

Yes, there are alligators at Sam Rayburn Lake. Sam Rayburn Lake lies in Angelina, Jasper, Nacogdoches, San Augustine, and Sabine Counties in deep East Texas. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) designates 32 Texas core counties as having a high population of alligators.

The five Texas counties of Sam Rayburn Lake are in the TPWD’s core counties. Core counties are counties constituting the prime historical habitat for the American alligator in Texas, where commercial hunting is viable. The TPWD engages in significant biological monitoring of the alligators and manages harvest through tag issuance to landowners.

The TPWD called in Gator Country to trap two alligators in Sam Rayburn Lake in May and August of 2020. Gator Country Preserve is a professional alligator management company with a 15-acre preserve for nuisance gators at their Gator Country Adventure Park near Beaumont, Texas.

In the spring of 2020, boaters, campers, and swimmers reported numerous sightings of a big gator in Sam Rayburn Lake. On May 26, 2020, Gator Country located and captured that gator after hours of searching for it. That gator went to live at the Gator Country Adventure Park near Beaumont, Texas.

In the first week of August 2020, the TPWD called Gator Country owner, Gary Saurage, to Sam Rayburn Lake about a 12-foot gator interacting with a populated area again. Gary Saurage, his daughter, and her fiancé headed out to find the gator. As soon as they located the gator, Gary knew that humans had been feeding that gator.

Gary’s team captured that alligator in two hours. Gary also knew the gator’s age from its skin. That gator was between 50 and 55 years old and weighed around 650 pounds. The team left to search for that gator about 15 miles north of Jasper, Texas, on the southern end of Sam Rayburn Lake.

Are there Alligators in Jasper, Texas?

Yes there are alligators in Jasper, Texas – but alligators make a rare appearance in the city of Jasper. Jasper lies in Jasper County, which is a TPWD core county with a prime historical habitat for alligators. It’s been quite a few years since a gator was sighted and killed in Jasper, Texas.

In 2014, Gary Saurage was disappointed with how that nuisance gator was handled. In Jasper, Texas. The TPWD sent a game warden to hunt down that huge gator and kill it in November 2014. Gator Country had been tracking that 1,000-pound gator since July 2014, and he wished the TPWD would have given him a few days to capture that animal.

It took multiple shots for the game warden to kill that gator. The gator had become a nuisance gator, and several pet dogs had disappeared in the neighborhood. It was an older gator at 13 feet long that was wandering around. Gary had wanted to move it to his Gator Country Adventure Park. The TPWD and Gator Country have since become professional partners since 2014.

Sam Rayburn Lake Alligator Attacks

There have been no reported gator attacks at Sam Rayburn Lake. While Sam Rayburn Lake is a prime habitat for gators, the TPWD, residents of, and visitors to the lake keep an eye out for nuisance gators. Sam Rayburn alligators do not like to be near populated areas and are typically afraid of humans.

Where Can I Swim at Sam Rayburn Lake?

Sam Rayburn Lake has designated swim beaches at Ebenezer Park, Mill Creek Park, San Augustine Park and Hanks Creek Park.

These swimming areas have safety features such as bouys to keep out boats, controlled slopes and depth, sandy beach areas, benches, and ranger patrols. There are no lifeguards on duty at any of the beach areas. Swim at your own risk.

Swimming in designated areas at Sam Rayburn Lake is free to registered campers or Day Use Annual Pass holders, or there is a fee for day use without an annual pass. Boaters and hikers can access more private swimming holes and areas, but they need to be aware of wildlife including alligator habitats.

Characteristics of Nuisance Gators

The presence of an alligator does not constitute a nuisance situation. If residences and commercial properties are located within or adjacent to habitats occupied by alligators, rare interactions do occur. Alligators are not naturally aggressive towards people. They avoid people and human-populated areas in their habitats, unless they have been fed intentionally or indirectly fed, such as by fish feeders or discarded fish remains thrown into the water.

Any alligator that has preyed upon or attempted to prey upon humans, pets, or livestock, or an alligator that shows aggression and lack of fear of humans by regularly approaching human activity is considered a "nuisance alligator". People who feed gators intentionally or indirectly create nuisance gators. Leaving fish remains in water or on the waterfront is illegal in many state and federal wildlife management agencies, and is considered indirectly feeding a gator.

Alligators do not naturally patrol neighborhoods, busy beaches and waterfronts, and popular fishing areas in their habitats. The following are instances in which local authorities should be notified about a nuisance gator:

  • If you see an alligator in the roadway.
  • If an alligator is repeatedly following boats, canoes or other watercrafts, and/or maintains a close distance without submersing.
  • If you walk near the water and an alligator comes straight toward you, especially if it comes out of the water.

Never Feed a Gator: It Is Illegal

It is illegal for an extremely logical reason based on centuries of knowledge from the folks who live in East Texas, southwestern Arkansas, Louisiana, and Florida. Why? Gators instinctively fear humans and will not normally attack people.

If only one person feeds a single gator, it poses a future threat to humans and a opens up a new gateway to the property near the feeding location to children, pets, deer, cattle, other livestock, and wildlife because the gators become acclimated to human interaction, lose their fear, and hunt the new grounds.

It is illegal in Texas to feed an alligator. Since October 1, 2003, it has been a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500 for anyone caught feeding an alligator in Texas. Human-fed gators are called nuisance gators. Even in non-core Texas counties, feeding a gator is dangerous to humans and the ecosystem.

What to Do if You Have an Alligator Encounter

Serious and repeated attacks are most often made by alligators 8-feet in length or more and the result of chase and feeding behavior. Attacks by alligators under 5-feet in length are rare.

From the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD):

  • If the alligator is not approaching people or otherwise posing an obvious threat, wait a few days if possible - even up to a week - before contacting TPWD. In spring and summer, alligators are moving to breed and find new habitat. Most of the alligators moving around are smaller ones that have been pushed out of their normal habitat by larger alligators. Usually, these smaller alligators will move further on in a week or two.
  • If you hear an alligator hiss, it's a warning that you are too close.
  • Alligators have a natural fear of humans, and usually begin a quick retreat when approached by people. If you have a close encounter with an alligator a few yards away, back away slowly. It is extremely rare for wild alligators to chase people, but they can run up to 35 miles per hour for short distances on land. Never make the mistake of thinking that an alligator is slow and lethargic. Alligators are extremely quick and agile and will defend themselves when cornered. A female protecting her nest might charge a person who gets close to the nest, but she would quickly return to the nest after the intruder left.
  • It is not uncommon for alligators to bask along the banks of a pond or stream for extended periods of time. These alligators are usually warming their bodies; they are not actively hunting. Often times a basking alligator may be seen with its mouth open; this is a way to cool its body temperature down, since alligators do not pant or sweat. An approaching human should cause these alligators to retreat into the water. (In some cases, the alligator may be protecting a nest - see below.) However, an alligator may be considered a nuisance if it leaves the banks of the water body to spend time near homes, livestock pens, or other structures.
  • If you walk near the water and an alligator comes straight toward you, especially if it comes out of the water, it is definitely a nuisance alligator that needs to be reported to TPWD. In many cases, these are alligators that have been fed by people or have been allowed to get human food.
  • If you see an alligator while walking a pet, make sure that your pet is on a leash and under your control. Your pet will naturally be curious, and the alligator may see an easy food source. Alligators have a keen sense of smell. In areas near alligator sightings it is wise to keep pets inside a fenced area or in the house for a few days, during which the alligator will often move on.
  • If you see an alligator in the roadway, DO NOT attempt to move it! Notify local authorities so the alligator can be handled safely.
  • If you see a large alligator in your favorite swimming hole or pond, do not swim with it. Although alligator attacks in Texas are rare, it can happen. The "attack" reports in Texas are usually more accurately described as "encounters." As with all outdoor activities, realize that wildlife encounters are a possibility.
  • It is not uncommon for alligators to pursue top-water fishing lures, and this activity does not constitute a threat to humans. As with fish, alligators are attracted to these lures because they mimic natural food. Most alligators can be easily scared away from boats or fishing lures. However, alligators that repeatedly follow boats, canoes, or other watercraft, and/or maintain a close distance without submersing may be considered nuisance alligators
  • If you see a nuisance alligator, consider why it is there. Did someone clean fish and throw the heads into a pond or river? If so, they created a potential alligator problem and could be breaking state regulations. Since October 1, 2003, it has been a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500 for anyone caught feeding an alligator.
  • Alligators do not naturally patrol neighborhoods, busy beaches and waterfronts, and popular fishing areas in their habitats. The following are instances in which local authorities should be notified about a nuisance gator:
  • If you see an alligator in the roadway.
  • If an alligator is repeatedly following boats, canoes or other watercrafts, and/or maintains a close distance without submersing.
  • If you walk near the water and an alligator comes straight toward you, especially if it comes out of the water.

Gator Safety Precautions

  • DON’T feed alligators.
  • DON’T get too close to them.
  • DON’T swim or wade where they are.
  • DON’T let your pets near them.
  • DON’T agitate or tease them.
  • DON’T try to catch one.
  • DON’T approach an alligator’s nest.
  • DO observe from a safe distance.
  • DO discourage others from feeding them.
  • DO treat them with respect as an important element of nature.
  • DO get additional information about alligators from your local Texas Parks and Wildlife Department office, or contact the Alligator Program directly at 10 Parks and Wildlife Dr., Port Arthur, Texas, 77640, or [email protected]

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Lake Sam Rayburn Current Weather Alerts

There are no active watches, warnings or advisories.


Lake Sam Rayburn Weather Forecast


Chance Thunderstorms

Hi: 89

Saturday Night

Slight Chance Thunderstorms

Lo: 75


Chance Thunderstorms

Hi: 91

Sunday Night

Partly Cloudy

Lo: 76


Slight Chance Thunderstorms

Hi: 93

Monday Night

Mostly Clear

Lo: 75


Mostly Sunny

Hi: 95

Tuesday Night

Partly Cloudy

Lo: 76

Lake Sam Rayburn Water Level (last 30 days)

Water Level on 7/13: 169.16 (+4.76)

Lake Sam Rayburn

Fishing Report from TPWD (Jul. 10)

GOOD. Water stained; 90 degrees; 5.11 feet above pool. Lots of floating debris after the recent rains from Hurricane Beryl. Water level is slowly dropping, but fishing conditions and patterns are holding steady. Summer bite is just around the corner when we will see the bass draw to deeper water points and white bass schooling. Bass are good on topwaters, or flipping soft plastics into submerged brush and points, or deeper humps and points with Carolina rigs. Crappie are in 12-16 feet of water, 20-30 feet on timber and brush. Catfish are in 22 feet of water in the creek channels. White bass are in 26 feet of water off of points on jigging spoons. Report by Captain Lynn Atkinson, Reel Um N Guide Service. As the lake continues to drop fish are going to be moving to traditional summer locations pending the thermocline depth. Bass are good early morning on shallow main lake points with medium or deep diving crankbaits, and topwaters. Main lake ledges with Carolina rig shaky head and spoons. Brush piles shallower than the thermocline with Texas rigs, jigs or Carolina rigs. The thermocline is actively fluctuating and will continue to do so while lake level changes. Navigate with caution watching for floating debris, trees, and stumps. Report by Hank Harrison, Double H Precision Fishing.

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